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STALKER developers, publisher dispute sale of rights to STALKER franchise (update)

Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Earlier today, German publisher bitComposer Entertainment announced it had acquired the rights to create future entries in the STALKER video game franchise, a development that would ensure the continuation of the series, the company said. GSC Game World and Vostok Games, the previous rights holder and ex-developer of past STALKER games, have a problem with that.

GSC and its CEO Sergey Grigorovich say they "remain to be the sole owners of all the intellectual property rights" to STALKER games and the brand overall, "including all the trademarks, the game universe [and] technology." In a statement posted to its website, GSC Game World, the developer — and in select territories, the publisher — of the first three STALKER games, disputes bitComposer's claim to rights and its outstanding financial obligations.

In view of the rumors appearing in press, we find it necessary to inform that GSC Game World and Sergey Grigorovich remain to be the sole owners of all the intellectual property rights to the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game series and the brand overall, including all the trademarks, the game universe, the technology etc. This can be easily verified with the trademark services online.

From time to time news on the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. brand purchase by this or that company appear over the Internet. We relate such a keen interest in the brand to its exceptional popularity. Even the purchase of rights to create a "Roadside picnic" book-based game by a small publisher is presented as the continuation of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. franchise. We have doubts regarding the mentioned product by bitComposer (the publisher of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat on some territories), since the latter has significant debts in terms of fulfilling the obligations under the existing contract between our companies.

A representative for Vostok Games, the studio established by former GSC Game World developers following the cancellation of STALKER 2, says it has not been in contact with bitComposer to discuss working with bitComposer on future STALKER titles. Vostok announced earlier this year that it was developing Survarium, a survival game that takes place after an ecological disaster.

Vostok Games' marketing director tells Polygon that the developer was "confused" by bitComposer's announcement and was assured by GSC Game World it still maintained its rights to developer STALKER video games.

bitComposer's original announcement asserted it had acquired the rights to STALKER from Boris Natanovich Strugatsky, co-author of Roadside Picnic, the novel upon which STALKER was originally based.

GSC Game World released STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl in 2007. The Ukrainian developer followed that up with prequel STALKER: Clear Sky in 2008 and sequel STALKER: Call of Pripyat in 2010. The first two games were published by THQ and Deep Silver in most territories, with bitComposer picking up publishing duties for Call of Pripyat in North America, Europe, Australia and Japan.

Polygon has reached out to bitComposer Entertainment for an update on the situation and will update with any statement from the company.

Update: GSC Game World is looking to either sell the series or bring new games to it, according to the head of their sales and licensing.

When asked what the future has in store for the brand, GSC Game World's Eugene Kuchma had this to say:

"I can only say that we're seeking ways to continue the series as well as considering the possibility to sell out the brand."

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